Those were the words my pastor said in his sermon one Sunday during my college years. Little did he or I know just how profoundly those words would affect my life.
At the time, I was attending a very charismatic Methodist church and I was completely plugged in to it. I was at every service in the week, and serving with their Purpose-Driven Life study, and in a cell group.
I was also absolutely sure I was right about everything. Well, that’s what I told myself, even if I doubted myself at times. I was the kind of person who would keep on arguing even once I realized I was wrong, just to avoid admitting I was wrong. So when my pastor said that we should be ready to admit to being wrong, I knew it would change my interactions with others. And it did: it made a huge impact in how I related to others when I allowed myself to admit I wasn’t always right. It was, in fact, freeing.
But then those words came back to me in another, scarier, way. I could admit to being wrong in an argument about minor things now, but what about huge, life-changing things? Could I objectively look at things enough to admit I could be mistaken about something I held to be foundational to my beliefs, to my very person?
That was what I was challenged with sometime after that sermon, when I was confronted with Catholic teachings. Oh, I’d encountered Catholic teachings before, sure, but every time I’d simply dismissed them. I didn’t seek to understand them, as I’d not been willing to admit I could possibly be wrong. Instead I was completely sure of myself, of my beliefs, and the beliefs of those who had taught me. If I were being honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I’d been actually afraid of the possibility of being wrong about something so fundamental, and that was why I had dismissed any ideas along those lines.
That refusal to look at other views objectively was before hearing that life-changing sermon, before I began to admit to being wrong in other things. And it was before I was confronted with Catholic teachings in a way that was impossible to simply ignore. This time, it wouldn’t just go away if I pretended it wasn’t there. I had to honestly look at it, and not just cross my arms, say “I’m right, you’re wrong,” and go on with life.
Of course, the teaching at the heart of this was on the Eucharist. While I’d heard about the Eucharist before, most notably for me being a conversation with my roommate freshman year, I hadn’t been willing to consider that it could be correct. Even then, I knew that I was being dishonest with myself and was actually afraid of being wrong. Instead of confronting myself on that, I sought out someone who would validate my own views and then went on my way, without giving much thought to it again.
When the topic of the Eucharist came up again, though, I remembered my pastor’s words and told myself, “you know, I could be wrong,” while seeking out the truth of the matter. I was tempted at first to just look at anti-Catholic sources who would reassure me that I wasn’t wrong about this, just like I’d sought out a friend with the same views years before. I knew in my heart, though, that this was disingenuous. So, recollecting that my New Testament professor always recommended looking to what the early Christians believed for clarification of the biblical beliefs, and armed with years of history and archaeology classes where I was urged to look at primary sources, I began again without forming conclusions before looking at the evidence. From that point, I was looking at the Bible (especially John 6), the writings of the early Christians, and what the Catholic Church itself said.
To my great surprise, I found that I had, in fact, been wrong! I’d had much in common with those who refused to keep following Jesus when He’d told them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, because I’d refused to believe He could be serious. Looking at the reverence the early Christians had for the Eucharist, at the Eucharistic miracles, and Jesus’ own words, I simply couldn’t doubt any longer. Once I came to that conclusion, I knew I had to enter the Church. I contacted local parishes, met with a priest, studied everything I could, and entered the Church in December 2004. I’ve never looked back.
There have been other times since then where I’ve encountered some teaching I didn’t understand or couldn’t see how it could be true, but I still try to remind myself of my old pastor’s words of wisdom and look at things more objectively. I’ve never regretted taking this approach to questions and arguments, but have often regretted it when I dug in my heels and refused to consider another view. I never would’ve guessed that such simple words would’ve changed my life so much, but I’m so very glad they did.